Friday, October 22, 2021

Federal agents to leave city, Oregon governors says

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The Trump administration sends federal agents in cities like Portland by citing the Department of Homeland Security. Here is breakdown on the law.

USA TODAY

After weeks of violent encounters between protesters and federal officers in Portland, federal agents will begin withdrawing from the city Thursday while state police will remain downtown, the governor of Oregon announced.

Gov. Kate Brown said Wednesday on Twitter that she had spoken with Vice President Mike Pence and others, and that the federal government had agreed to remove all Customs and Border Protection and ICE officers from downtown Portland.

“They have acted as an occupying force & brought violence. Starting tomorrow, all Customs and Border Protection & ICE officers will leave downtown Portland,” Brown wrote, in part, on Twitter. “Let’s center the Black Lives Matter movement’s demands for racial justice and police accountability. It’s time for bold action to reform police practices.”

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Violent protests continue near the federal courthouse in Portland, as local police detained two people after a gunshot was heard.

USA TODAY

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said federal authorities will pull back forces from the streets of Portland and will be replaced by state and local police to protect a worn perimeter around the city’s federal courthouse.

Federal Protective Service officers and U.S. Marshals would continue to be deployed inside, Wolf said, while Oregon State Police and city officers would replace DHS officers outside, patrolling streets around the federal complex. Wolf said the full federal force would continue to remain in the area on standby until federal authorities are “assured that the plan is working.”

A force of at least 114 federal officers have been deployed to the city since early this month in the wake of demonstrations against police brutality following the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Wolf said the agreement for federal authorities to stand down was reached after Brown and other local officials recognized the “error of their ways” in failing to adequately protect the federal complex.

The development in Portland comes as the Justice Department plans to send nearly 100 federal agents and officers to Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee as part of Operation Legend, a federal crime initiative that began earlier this month and has since been expanded to several cities.

The Trump administration previously announced a surge of hundreds of agents to Kansas City, Missouri; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Chicago.

Since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, Portland has seen nightly protests against police brutality and racial injustice. 

President Donald Trump has said he ordered federal agents into the city to halt the unrest. He has described the protesters as “anarchists” and “agitators.”

“These are attacks on federal officers protecting fed property,” acting Homeland Security Deputy Secretary Ken Cuccinelli tweeted Monday. “Anyone who tells you otherwise is willfully ignoring the facts or lying.”

More: Justice Inspector opens probe into federal agents’ actions in Portland and DC protests

Portland: Police detain two suspects after reported shooting near federal courthouse protest site

In recent weeks, confrontations between protesters and federal officers have escalated and largely centered on the federal courthouse. While some protesters have lit fireworks or thrown objects over fencing at the courthouse, many others have gathered peacefully, repeating chants and marching through the streets.

Federal agents have fired tear gas and pepper spray at the protesters, and in response, protesters have formed “walls of moms,” a group of women who have stood on the front lines to protect others, or donned orange and carried leaf blowers to help disperse tear gas.

A group of Portland protesters filed suit against the Trump administration this week, alleging that the actions of federal agents in the city violated their constitutional rights, went beyond legal authority and were directed by someone not formally confirmed in their role.

Separately, mayors from six U.S. cities penned a letter to Congress on Monday asking lawmakers to pass legislation blocking the administration from sending “unidentified federal agents” to cities without local consultation.

“This must stop. The administration’s egregious use of federal force on cities over the objection of local authorities should never happen,” wrote the mayors of Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Albuquerque, Kansas City and Washington, D.C. “We welcome partnership, not partisan threats.”

Contributing: Ryan Miller, Bart Jansen, Kristine Phillips, Lindsay Schnell

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